The Quesnel Festival of the Performing Arts (QFPA) has just wrapped for the year, but next year is already in doubt.
There are certainly no shortages of talented performers. There are kids readying themselves to present hundreds of numbers in dancing, singing, poetry, dramatic scenes, piano, instrument, band and choral recital. Quesnel’s festival is so highly regarded that ambitious performers come from other communities to test their talents here.
There aren’t enough adults in the volunteer ranks, however. The ones who pulled off this year’s re-start from COVID are exhausted from doing triple and quadruple the normal duties, and there wasn’t a groundswell of help from among the teachers, parents, grown-up performers who want to give back, and general community members who love the arts.
That said, this was a startup year after years of dormancy. People aged. People moved. People got semi-involved not knowing what full involvement really looks like. Melanie McKinnon is one of those longtime volunteers, and music instructor, who is passionate about seeing the QFPA thrive and grow as it always has, but she was one of the too few who attended the Annual General Meeting.
She is now a leading voice calling for the community to attend a follow-up meeting on June 6 at 7 p.m. at the Arts & Rec Centre. It’s being called an emergency meeting, but she hopes a better word is urgent.
“This meeting is very, very important,” she said. “It is going to determine the fate of the festival. If people want the festival – and I believe people really do; I believe Quesnel values the festival – people have to step in, right now. And if we get enough people, like we did before, then the work isn’t actually that much. I would hate to see the festival fold, or lose that momentum we have.”
“Things don’t happen at the time, they happen ahead of time,” McKinnon said. In order to set up the adjudicators needed and secure the spaces required, among many other duties, grants and sponsorships must be gathered together. That work is cyclical and not difficult. But if no one is in place to do the small things, there are no ways to reach the big goals. That work has to start soon, so the volunteer team has to be in place even sooner.
“The festival is in a really good position, in many ways. We have money to run the next season. We are doing really well, but we don’t have the people,” McKinnon explained.
If the very real possibility of losing the 2024 event happens just as the 2023 event finishes on such a high note, it would be especially painful, she said.
“Without this festival, there is no opportunity for performers to move on to the provincials, here locally. I want to see kids in Quesnel have the opportunity to perform, discover their creativity, develop their gifts, and be inspired to pursue those skills. It’s not just dreams, these are skills for life, potentially a profession, but always a life-skill.”
The QFPA is an event that does more than judge a lineup of kids in a sequence of performances. Each participant gets to spend instructional time with the professional adjudicators and clinicians who come to assess the various performing arts disciplines. There are sometimes group exercises, and pre- and post-festival additional performance opportunities. For the very best, there is the qualification to the provincial festival of the performing arts, held this week in Penticton.
“It totally inspires and encourages them. They want to do better, they want to improve, there’s a reason to strive to accomplish more, they can see what is possible,” McKinnon said. “We feel very positive about the festival, we feel very excited about what we know we can offer the community, we just need those helping hands. And the time to act is now.”